You may not know Luis C. Monserrat, but you’ll definitely be familiar with the hotels he runs. His company, Hospitality Innovators Inc. (HII), operates and manages properties like The Picasso Boutique Serviced Residences in Makati, Azumi Boutique Hotel in Alabang, The CrossWinds Resort Suites in Tagaytay, and the new Hue Hotels and Resorts Boracay, among many others. As founder and CEO of one of the country’s leading hotel and property management companies, Monserrat is pretty well-positioned to comment on current industry trends.
One of his observations is that, while foreign tourists are still a big part of the market, local tourism is booming as well. “One of the things that is very clear from the standpoint of our different hotels is that the local market has grown significantly over the past few years,” he says. “It actually represents the single largest source market based on country of origin.”
Luis C. Monserrat
“Most of our hotels are city business hotels and majority of our guests are foreigners, but it is very apparent that the local market is still growing. This is consistent with the data from the Department of Tourism (DOT) which is saying that local tourism is becoming a key driver in the tourism industry. The evidence of this is the growing popularity of staycations. In fact, the staycation market is the trend in many of our hotels and this is especially true during weekends,” he continues.
Monserrat has also observed that people who stay for the weekend tend to look for “Instagrammable” hotels. But apart from aesthetically appealing interiors, Filipinos are especially value-conscious. “Based on our experience, Filipino tourists are, as often as not, harder to please than foreign guests, but they also tend to be price sensitive,” he says. “They have high standards of service and are sought after as a workforce as excellent service providers. Even if they stay at mid-level rated hotels, the expectation is to get the best value for what they pay for. We look at this as a challenge to up our game and aim to not only meet but surpass their expectations.”
The Picasso Boutique Serviced Residences
More and more Filipinos are booking through online travel agencies like Traveloka and Expedia, too. In today’s competitive climate, it’s important for hotels to be adept at digital marketing. “Given the contribution of the online travel agencies (OTAs) in the hotel business, digital marketing specifically aimed at these channels is obviously very important,” Monserrat explains. “We develop promotional strategies with the OTAs and strategize with them depending on the market segment we are targeting.”
However, Monserrat adds that OTAs are “essentially manipulations or short-term tools.” The only way to truly stand out and remain top-of-mind is to provide exceptional and memorable service. One way hotels try to do this is through personalization. For example, some welcome their guests by putting up banners in their rooms and leaving cakes decorated with their customers’ company logos.
Others take photos of their guests enjoying themselves and present them at the end of their customers’ stay. At Hue Boracay, pictures from your Instagram account are placed in a frame next to your bed and displayed on the TV along with a welcome message. Some people are pleasantly surprised by these gestures, while others may find them a little creepy.
“There is an old saying, ‘different strokes for different folks,’” Monserrat says. “Some will like it and some will not. To come up with a blanket approach will be difficult. What should be done instead is to try to know guests on a personalized basis and be able to determine if this particular guest will appreciate it or not.”
The Cirque Serviced Residences
Gimmicks aside, Monserrat asserts that there are two ways you can assure that your brand will be different from the others. “It all boils down to the attention to detail and the level of heart that you put into the job,” he says. If hotel managers can effectively pass these values down to all of their staff, they'll be able to stand out and impress even the most discriminating of guests.